- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Quinton Coples didn't set any specific goals for himself entering his rookie season in the NFL. Stats, pressures, hurries and other statistics used to assess defensive linemen weren't his focus. He just wanted to find a way to consistently make plays.
New York Jets
"I just wanted to make sure I was productive. The stats and stuff are going to come. I know that's a part of the game and I trust in my coaches. They'll put me in those positions to make sure I get to the quarterback," Coples said. "At the end of the day, I just want to make sure I was on the field and being productive. Regardless of how much time, I just wanted to be out there."
As the Jets enter the final game of the regular season against Buffalo, Coples believes he has improved as a player over the course of the year and helped the Jets. The rookie leads the team with 5 1/2 sacks and is third on the team with 24 quarterback hits. He's added 26 total tackles.
"I definitely think I have progressed and have been productive since the beginning," Coples said. "I'm going to continue working on that and take care of it."
Coples started the year slow, with just two sacks in the first 12 games, both of which came in the same game. But he's turned it on over the final three games. He's recorded a sack in each of those contests, including 1 1/2 in last Sunday's loss to San Diego. He's tied for fourth among rookies in sacks, showcasing the pass-rushing skills that made him a first-round pick.
Jets coach Rex Ryan said on Dec. 20 he believed Coples was hitting his stride, and that the team's usage of Coples in different roles is finally starting to pay off. Ryan credited Coples for the way he practiced before adding that he would like to see Coples improve in the run game.
"But I think going forward this is going to be a guy that’s going to be, obviously, a huge part of what we do in the future," Ryan said. "And I think it’s rare to get a guy with his kind of height, weight, speed."
As he assessed his rookie year, Coples said it's been "good." He's learned a lot and has continued to grow as a player. He appreciates the help his teammates and coaches gave him this year in terms of recognizing offensive formations and offensive line tendencies.
The rookie hopes to end the year Sunday with a strong team and individual outing.
"Got a lot of focus on the game," Coples said. "Definitely want to go out on a win, make sure I help my teammates be victorious in any way possible I can and I'm just staying in my path and continue to try to be productive."